A deeply insightful, empathetic family history.



A sharp portrait of two women who struggled to shape their lives as their world changed.

Poet Moore (The Bishop’s Daughter, 2008, etc.), who has written perceptive, revelatory biographies of her father, Bishop Paul Moore, and maternal grandmother, painter Margarett Sargent, now focuses her attention on her mother, Jenny McKean (1923-1973). Based in part on an unfinished memoir that Jenny bequeathed to her, Moore also draws on letters, scrapbooks, and abundant interviews with family, Jenny’s many friends, and lovers to create a sensitive portrait of a complex, contradictory woman. Born into great wealth, Jenny greatly enjoyed the “dinners and dances” of her debutante year, at the same time feeling stimulated by what she was learning at Vassar: comparative anthropology, for example, where, for the first time, she studied race, “an issue that would gather force and meaning for her and inform her moral and political thinking for the rest of her life.” So did her marriage to Paul, also born into wealth, who had decided to become a priest. For both, the church offered a sense of meaning and mission. Jenny defied “the limitations of her role as a clergy wife,” becoming an active partner in the couple’s work in the slums of Jersey City, where they lived in near poverty and, influenced by the Christian radical Dorothy Day, threw themselves “into a life of service, away from the spiritual emptiness and lack of community in which they had grown up.” Honor, the oldest of their nine children, competed for her mother’s attention not only with her siblings, but also with her mother’s consuming social and political engagement; as she grew up, Jenny desired to extricate herself from her roles as wife and mother and forge a new identity. By 1970, with women’s liberation bursting into American culture, both the author and her mother “began to stumble toward new terms of engagement—as free women.” For each of them, the stumbling exposed emotional wounds, and for Moore, the discovery of her mother’s gift to her: “a kind of force within that never allows me to stay still.”

A deeply insightful, empathetic family history.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-39-308005-6

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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